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Guest post: The Shimmering Girl at the Palace by Laura Lam

9 Mar

Today I’m very excited to have Laura Lam joining me on the latest stop of her Masquerade blog tour. Laura was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine. 

Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam’s Micah Grey trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay. Welcome Laura!

Once there was a girl with dragonfly wings, who soared above the world. She looked down and saw happiness, and sadness, and wide expanses with no one at all save the animals and trees and rocks and streams. She flew all the way around the world, writing down whatever she saw. When she came back, she did not show anyone her little journal. It was her version of the world, and she wanted to keep it for her alone.

— ‘The Dragonfly Girl’, Hestia’s Fables 

Laura LamEvery chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago.

I seem to write a lot about girls in Hestia’s fables in this book, which I didn’t quite clock until I started writing about these excerpts. Hestia’s fable are sort of like Aesop’s fables—short apocryphal tales that people in Ellada would have grown up reading. Dragonflies and damselflies are also a reoccurring motif throughout the trilogy. People in Ellada often whisper that dragonflies can weigh the lightness or darkness of the soul, which I might have picked up from research somewhere. This excerpt came across a little wistful, which I like. What did the dragonfly girl see on her travels?

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.

Masquerade is released today in paperback by Pan.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light? 9781509807789

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more.  Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

Please do visit the other stops on the Masquerade tour!

Find out more about Laura and her writing at: http://www.lauralam.co.uk/

Book review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

13 Feb

hold back‘We’re going to be fine.’
He looks around, but there’s nothing out here: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen.
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.

Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.

I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books in 2017 already and Hold Back the Stars is definitely one of those ‘wow’ books. I loved this futuristic love story for its combination of elements of two of my favourite genres (romance and sci-fi) and Katie Khan’s look forward to what our world might become, had me fascinated – this book is a ‘must read’ debut this year.

Hold Back the Stars is set on Earth but not quite as we know it (though given recent political events I found the future described here scarily believable). Max and Carys are citizens of Europia; the unified collection of countries that now exist as one whole with a new world order. In Europia the individual is everything and people are literally made to be self-sufficient and go out to establish themselves on their own from a young age. I found Katie’s take on what the future might look like, clever and unique with lovely little touches to the descriptive writing that meant I read this book over a weekend and didn’t want to put it down.

The story opens with Max and Carys in space. They’ve made a mistake and managed to get away from their ship without propellant to get themselves back and have only 90 minutes of air left. At times, reading this story as the air supply went down made me feel a little claustrophobic but as a story telling device it adds brilliantly to the plot and tension of the novel. The playing out of those last ninety minutes far above Earth is broken up by the story of how Max and Carys got to this point, starting with their first encounter and charting their relationship as it develops in exceptional circumstances.

At its heart Hold Back the Stars is a love story and one that will stay with me for a long time. Like many great literary couples, Carys and Max are forbidden by the ‘couples rule’ to be a couple at their young ages (they are in their twenties). I’m not going to go into all the details of the world that Katie has created – a big part of the pleasure of reading this book was discovering the world as it is in her future vision – but I will say that its believable and cleverly done and examines some interesting philosophical debates around self, love, family, happiness and democracy. I’d love to add this book to our book group reading list as I think it would spark some really interesting conversations.

If you’re looking for something a little different from your reading this month then look no further –  if you love a beautifully written story, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to see what Katie writes next!

5/5

Hold Back the Stars is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie and her writing at: http://katiekhan.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Author interview: Vic James

21 Jan

Today I’m very excited to welcome author Vic James to One More Page to talk about Gilded Cage the first book in the Dark Gifts trilogy – a book which held me gripped from start to finish and presents a wonderfully dystopian alternative Britain.

Vic is a current affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms, and Gilded Cage is her debut novel. She has twice judged the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, has made films for BBC1, BBC2, and Channel 4 News, and is a huge Wattpadd.com success story. Under its previous title, Slavedays, her book was read online over a third of a million times in first draft. And it went on to win Wattpad’s ‘Talk of the Town’ award in 2015 – on a site showcasing 200 million stories. She lives and works in London. Welcome Vic!

VicJames2 C JAY DACYHi Vic. Gilded Cage is released in paperback on 26th January. Please could you tell us a little about it and the inspirations behind it.

Gilded Cage is set in an alternate contemporary Britain ruled by a magically gifted aristocracy, in which everyone else – the 99% of us – must perform a decade of service called the ‘slavedays’. The Hadley family think they’ve avoided being sent to a worktown, by applying to serve the aristocrats on a grand estate, but things don’t go according to plan. Eighteen-year-old Abi is caught up in the dark power-games of the aristocrats, while seventeen-year-old Luke is ripped from his family and treads a dangerous path in Manchester’s brutal worktown.

In the world of the books, the ‘slavedays’ system is 400 years old, but the genesis of the story was a current affairs series I made for BBC2 called The Superrich and Us about our world right now. I realised that the power and influence of the very wealthiest in our society – the 1% – was so great that it was almost ‘like magic’. Ta-da! While the experience of those doing their days, the 99% of ‘us’, is a blend of everything that’s most unfair in our unequal society today: unremitting grind, rubbish jobs, disenfranchisement, and so on.

By way of introduction, imagine Silyen, Jenner and Gavar are on twitter (!) what would their bios say?

- Silyen wouldn’t be on twitter. Or rather, he’d be an egg account, following all the powerful and provocative people who tweet in about 10 different languages. He’d never tweet himself.

- Jenner is a private, reserved person. His bio would be plain and factual: “Second son of Lord Whittam and Lady Thalia Jardine”, with a little location pin for ‘Kyneston, Hampshire’.

- Gavar is more a Rich Kids of Instagram, though his account has fallen strangely silent since he became a father and his girlfriend ‘died’…

I found all of the characters so intriguing and with so much potential; did you have a favourite to write and who caused you the most trouble when writing?

They never cause me trouble. I hear each of them clearly! The person with the most intricate tale to tell is Euterpe, who speaks to us only once, in Chapter 10 – my favourite chapter in the book, and almost a story within a story.

The one who demanded more chapters than I ever imagined is swaggering, obtuse Heir Gavar, whose past behavior has been shocking, yet who somehow occasionally intuits things more clearly than anyone else in his world. Scenes with Silyen are always a treat to write, but I have to use his point-of-view sparingly so as not to give too much away!

If you were a commoner in the world of The Dark Gifts trilogy, at what stage in your life would you choose to work out your gilded cageten years and why?

I’d put it off as long as possible, until the age of 55! But you can only do that responsibly if you don’t have children. If you die with your 10 years unserved, or incomplete, your debt passes to your children.

How have your own experiences fed into writing Gilded Cage?

It’s all in there! Obviously all the stories I covered in my journalism career – from the world of the superrich, to how politics works to the relentless grind of life at the bottom. But there’s a lot of my life experience in Abi, too. She’s a smart girl from a normal background, sent to a world of privilege of which she has no experience, to which she must rapidly adjust. I can really identify. I come from a working-class home, with two parents who never finished school as teenagers, then went to one of Oxford’s oldest and grandest colleges, a place of beauty and tradition, surrounded by the wealthy and, yes, even the titled!

As it’s still January, the month of resolutions; what are your reading resolutions for 2017?

Read more; read more by diverse authors; and read more nonfiction.

Last year was breakneck busy: I edited Gilded Cage, wrote and edited the sequel, and directed two BBC1 TV programmes. As I write this, in January, we’ve just signed off the sequel, and Gilded Cage is publishing. I can’t wait for life to slow down a little, and I’ve promised myself one dedicated reading day a week. Haven’t managed it so far, but I’m ever-hopeful!

And finally … what can we expect next from Vic James?

Oooh! Well, that all depends on what takes my publishers’ fancy, but there is an intense standalone I’m desperate to write. And I’m simmering an idea for another AU contemporary dualogy or trilogy: intrigue, corruption, secrets and untold history, and a global power struggle, in a world of dark glamour and tradition.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Amanda, and for loving GILDED CAGE! If anyone has any questions – come and find me on twitter @drvictoriajames

You can find out more about Gilded Cage and Vic James at: http://www.vicjames.co.uk/

gilded cageGilded Cage is published in paperback on 26th January by Pan Macmillan and is available an an ebook now.

A modern Britain
An age-old cruelty

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadleys’ turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England’s most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom – or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends’ ideals might cost him everything.

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

 

Book review: The Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

13 Jan

promise of fire“Cat” Catalia Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a travelling circus. She is actually an exceptionally powerful Magoi – known as the Kingmaker – who can divine lies. But Cat has no interest in using her powers – or in being used for them – and stays under the radar, far from the clutches of her power-hungry homicidal family.

An ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, Griffin, is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her – then does everything he can to coax her to help his people willingly.

Cat has worked hard to avoid the dangerous destiny she fears is in her blood but the balance of power in their world is shifting. The old magics are no longer all-powerful and there’s a new, ferocious force at work. To survive, Cat will have to explore the true depth of the powers she’s spent so long running from – and perhaps even learn to work with her enemies . . . .

Amanda Bouchet’s debut, A Promise of Fire is the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy, published for the first time in the UK by Piatkus this month. The Kingmaker Chronicles are high-fantasy romances set in a world divided by those who have magic and those who don’t. I love the cover for this UK paperback edition – it captures the sense of the book perfectly.

Immediately, as I started reading I was thrown into a new world and I enjoyed the vividness of Amanda’s descriptions of the travelling circus where we find Catalia, known as Cat living as a soothsayer. The pace of this story is great and its soon clear that there’s more to Cat than she’s letting on and this sets the anticipation high right from the start as she encounters the hulking Griffin and knows he wants more from her than just his fortune!

Fans of mythology will love that this novel is packed with gods, goddesses, omens, oracles, fantastical creatures and magic. Bouchet has created a vivid and detailed world in which to set her story that links directly to the Greek/Roman mythology creation story (you can read more about it here: http://www.amandabouchet.com/origin-of-thalyria.php). I’m a huge fan of mythology so it was exciting to find a new novel that played into that world. If you’re a fan of Nora Roberts’ Guardians trilogy, I’d definitely recommend that you check this series out.

Cat is a feisty, quick and clever character and I liked her straight away – her inner dialogue made me smile and I enjoyed how Amanda Bouchet slowly revealed more about Cat and the worlds she lives in as the story progressed. There is never a dull moment!  Griffin is Cat’s enemy but he’s nicely drawn as an enemy she (and us readers) can love to hate and Bouchet builds the tension beautifully between them with lots of spiky banter and high action scenes.

I really enjoyed this book – it’s original, action packed and fun. The strong mythology coupled with compelling characters, a gripping story line and a good dose of passion make A Promise of Fire a quick and exciting read and an excellent start to a new fantasy series.

4/5

The Promise of Fire is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Piatkus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

For more information on Amanda Bouchet and The Kingmaker Chrionicles, please visit: https://kingmakerchronicles.com/ or http://amandabouchet.com/

My Kinda Book party and giveaway! #MKBParty

31 Dec

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Last month I was very lucky to receive a fab bookish party pack in celebration of the excellent books to be found at MyKindaBook. I’ve been a fan of MyKindaBook for a long time so I jumped at the chance to be part of the #MKBParty weekend at the end of November and I had so much fun that I’m carrying on the party this New Years Eve with a party round up and a lovely little giveaway to get 2017 off to an excellent start!

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So, here are the three brilliant books that I received as part of the pack – what a fab trio! I ran a little poll on Twitter to see which book my fellow readers would recommend that I tried first and the winner was Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard so this was the book that I read over the #MKBParty weekend and I loved it.

IMG_6531Beautiful Broken Things is the story of best friends Caddy and Rosie and what happens to them and their friendship when a new girl moves to town. This book took me straight back to my own teenage years and how close and brilliant those friendships can be but also how fragile, emotional and heartbreaking. There was so much that I related to in this book and Sara has done a brilliant job of creating believable characters and situations.

This is a very readable and gripping story, yet with so many important messages and tackles a painful topic (domestic abuse and its effects) in a way that is thought provoking and understandable and importantly, focuses on the wide ranging repercussions without being overly dramatic or sharing the disturbing details. Much of this books impact on me was in what was left unsaid and I can’t wait to read more from Sara. Luckily, I won’t have long as her new novel, A Quiet Kind of Thunder is out on 12th January!

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When Amanda met Rainbow :-)

The second book in my box of treats was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of Rainbow Rowell and already own all of her books. Fangirl is a brilliant example of what Rainbow does best; putting wonderful characters on the page with great dialogue and quirky romance. In Fangirl identical twins Cath and Wren go off to university and whilst Wren decides to embrace the new experience in full to the point of separating herself from her sister for the first time, Cath struggles. I loved Cath and again could relate to the situations that she found herself in (including being too scared to go to the dining hall) and her shyness. Cath writes amazing fan-fiction and this element of the story is also brilliant and her love of her characters struck a strong note with me. Fangirl is a great book about coping with change and growing up and do check out Rainbow’s other books both Adult and Young Adult if you haven’t already. As I’ve already got a lovely copy of Fangirl I’m going to offer the copy I received in this pack along with some other goodies in a giveaway at the end of this post so please do enter!

IMG_6960The final book in my party pack is this gorgeous new blue cover edition of The Lie Tree by Frances HardingeThis book won the Costa Book of the Year award for 2015 and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I haven’t read it yet but will be soon as my book club has chosen it as our book for our March meet up! here’s the synopsis – I can’t wait to read it!

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered. 

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

As well as more info, extracts and interviews on the books in my party pack, you can find lots more great reads on the MyKindaBook site and sign up for discussions, giveaways and more – do pop over there! In 2017 I’m looking forward to Heartless by Marissa Meyer (February), The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas and Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (May).

I wish you all a very happy new reading year!

Giveaway!

To be in with a chance of winning all of the goodies pictured below just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

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I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Saturday 7th January. Good Luck!

My ten books of Christmas 2016 – festive reads filled with cheer!

20 Dec

I was planning to post this weeks ago but life got in the way! There’s still plenty of time to enjoy a festive book or two though and I’m hoping to work my way through as many of these as I can in the next couple of weeks!

Here’s what’s on my Christmas reading pile:

12 days of christmasTwelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber (Arrow)

I look forward to Debbie Macomber’s Christmas release each year and always read her latest in the run up to Christmas (read my reviews of Dashing Through the Snow and Starry, Starry Night ). Debbie’s books are full of warmth and always get to the real meaning of Christmas so I can’t wait to read Twelve Days of Christmas.

Julia is infuriated by her grumpy neighbour, Cain, who can’t even be pleasant when they bump into each other.

So on the suggestion of her best friend, Cammie, Julia concocts a plan. She starts a blog in order to clinch her perfect job, and now she has a subject. Over the next twelve days, she is going to kill Cain with kindness – and Christmas cheer – and document it for all to read about.

But as the experiment goes on, Julia realises she underestimated the effect it would have on Cain, and on their relationship, and things take an unexpected turn…

A Nightingale Christmas Carol by Donna Douglas A Nightingale Christmas Carol

Donna’s Nightingale Nurses series is a favourite of mine and I’ve read all of the books in it. I read this book last month and loved it (review here!) and if you haven’t tried the series yet you can definitely read this as a stand alone – it’s a great place to start.

All that Dora Riley wants is her husband home safe for Christmas…

The Nightingale Hospital, London, 1944: With her husband Nick away fighting, Dora struggles to keep the home fires burning and is put in charge of a ward full of German prisoners of war. Can she find it in her heart to care for her enemies?

Fellow nurse Kitty thinks she might be falling for a German soldier, whilst Dora’s old friend Helen returns from Europe with a dark secret.

Can the women overcome their prejudices and the troubles of their past to do their duty for their country?

winter magicWinter Magic curated by Abi Elphinstone

At the end of Noovember I won an amazing book advent (#bookvent) calendar from SJ at Books and the City, part of Simon and Schuster. I’ve been counting down through December opening a wonderful book parcel every morning – nothing will ever top it! Winter Magic is one of my favourite of my #bookvent books – I’m loving dipping into the magical stories; they are just the right length for bedtime reading!

A beautiful and classic anthology of frosty, magical short stories from acclaimed children’s writers such as Michelle Magorian, Berlie Doherty, Lauren St John and Katherine Woodfine, and edited by author Abi Elphinstone.

Dreamsnatcher’s Abi Elphinstone heads up this gorgeous collection of wintery stories, featuring snow queens, frost fairs, snow dragons and pied pipers . . . from classic children’s writers such as Michelle Magorian, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Berlie Doherty, Katherine Woodfine, Piers Torday, Lauren St John, Amy Alward, Michelle Harrison and Emma Carroll.

An unmissable, enchanting treat of a collection that will be enjoyed for years to come, by readers of all ages.

Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnsoncomfort food

I loved Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe so ordered a copy of this novella sequel as soon as it came out. At just over 200 pages its the perfect length to fit in at busy Christmas time and Debbie’s writing always makes me smile!

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.

Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

Inviting readers new and old to pull up a cosy armchair, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe is the novella-length follow-up to the 2016 best-seller Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe.

all wrapped upAll Wrapped Up (Geek Girl Special Book 1) by Holly Smale

I’m a huge fan of the Geek Girl series so I couldn’t resist a copy of this when I was in the supermarket one day. This is a lovey short and sweet story that takes place just after the first Geek Girl book and is filled with Harriet-style Christmas facts and more hilarious Geek Girl moments. A perfect stocking filler for Geek Girls of all ages!

Harriet Manners knows a lot about Christmas.

She knows that every year Santa climbs down 91.8 million chimneys.

She knows that Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was almost definitely a girl.

She knows that the first artificial Christmas trees were made out of goose feathers.

But this Christmas is extra special for Harriet, because four days ago she had her First Ever Kiss.

Now she just needs to work out what’s supposed to happen next…

A romantic festive treat from the internationally bestselling award-winning author of the GEEK GIRL series. Also includes a BONUS previously unpublished GEEK GIRL short story TEAM GEEK!

lilac cottageChristmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

It was cover love at first sight when I saw Christmas at Lilac Cottage and this sounds like a wonderfully romantic Christmas read – I’m very much looking forward to discovering a new author in Holly Martin too!

Snow is falling on White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air . . .

Penny Meadows loves her cosy cottage with its stunning views over the snow-topped town of White Cliff Bay, but not even the roaring log fire can keep her personal life from feeling frozen.

That is until dashing Henry and his daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage for the festive season. And between decking the halls and baking delicious mince pies, Penny realises there is more to Henry than meets the eye.

With sleigh bells ringing and fairy lights twinkling, the ice-sculpting competition and Christmas Eve ball are in full swing. Will Penny be able to melt the ice and allow love into her heart? And will she finally have the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?

stealing snowStealing Snow by Danielle Page

I’d had my eye on this book for a while – it sounds like the perfect winter fantasy romance read! I loved the two short stories that preceded the launch of Stealing Snow; Queen Rising and Before the Snow so I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave .

She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate.

A wonderfully icy fantastical romance, with a strong heroine choosing her own destiny, Danielle Paige’s irresistibly page-turning Snow Queen is like Maleficent and Frozen all grown up.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by David Levithan and Rachel Cohntwelve days of dash

I read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares back in 2012 (yikes!) and it’s one of the Christmassy books that is on my ‘keepers’ pile so I was veery excited (and of course had to buy a copy) when I spotted a sequel had been released! This is another short read so great for fitting in around the Christmassy chaos!

Dash and Lily have been dating for nearly a year, but when Lily’s beloved grandfather falls ill, the repercussions take their toll on everyone. Even though they are still together, somehow the magic has gone out of their relationship and it’s clear that Lily has fallen out of love with life. Action must be taken! Dash teams up with Lily’s brother and a host of their friends, who have just twelve days to get Lily’s groove back in time for Christmas.

mistletoeMistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson

A brilliant Christmas read from Lisa Dickenson – her best book yet! Read my review here to see why I loved it so much!

Olivia has never experienced a snow-covered, ‘traditional’ Christmas before. Having grown up in a family that chose winter sun over decking the halls, she’s not sure what all the fuss is about. So when she and her colleagues are stranded in New York after a work trip, Olivia is perfectly happy spending the holiday season in the Big Apple.

Jon, Olivia’s friend, on the other hand is desperate to get home in time for his big family get-together. Nevertheless, determined to make the best out of the situation, he sets out to show Olivia how enchanting Christmas in New York can be. And when handsome New Yorker Elijah is added to the mix, could the magic of the season finally be working its charm on Olivia? As 25 December draws closer, Olivia suddenly finds herself with a decision to make: who does she really want to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

A Fairy Tale for Christmas by Chrissie Manby chrissie

A lovely cover and premise for Chrissie Manby’s latest novel – her books are always such a treat so I couldn’t resist adding it to the pile!

What could be more magical at Christmas than a fairy tale come true?

It’s the festive season and the members of the Newbay Theatre Society, more commonly known as the NEWTS, are preparing to put on a show. Being cast as Cinderella is the realization of a dream for newcomer Kirsty, not least because she hopes starring in a panto under the direction of her boyfriend Jon will bring them closer together.

But Kirsty soon learns that it’s not all glitter and good cheer behind the scenes at the amateur theatre as bitter rivalries nurtured through decades, wardrobe mishaps and suspicious near-fatal accidents threaten to derail the production. And then there’s Prince Charming himself. Will working together with Jon bring Kirsty her happy ever after… or reveal their love to be nothing but a ‘showmance’?

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s going to take more than a Fairy Godmother to get Kirsty and her cast-mates to the ball.

So there you have my Christmas picks – what are your recommendations for great reads this Christmas?

 

Five fab festive audiobooks (so you can ‘read’ whilst wrapping!)

15 Dec

2016 was the year that I got into audiobooks and now that I’ve discovered crochet my audiobooks are keeping me ‘reading’ while I work on my projects.

Audiobooks are great for keeping you company in the car or making repetitive tasks more interesting – I’m loving listening to Christmas stories while I wrap presents this year so here are my suggestions for a festive audio treat. I use Audible but other audiobooks are available.

christmas feastA Christmas Feast and other stories by Katie Fforde

Katie’s Christmas short stories are always favourites of mine so I was excited to see that they’d been brought together in a lovely festive collection and even happier that I can now listen to them!

A delicious Christmas feast of short stories from the Sunday Times number one best-selling author of A French Affair and The Perfect Match.

Add some extra sparkle to your Christmas by joining Katie Fforde for a perfect romantic Christmas feast of short stories. Collected together for the first time and including one brand-new story. Make your Christmas wishes come true….

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore Narrated by: Jeff Bridgesnight before

This is only short but its lovely and Jeff Bridges has the perfect voice for it! My sons both love this story/poem and we’ve been listening to it at bedtime in the run up to Christmas.

Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges’ iconic voice brings the beloved holiday classic story “The Night Before Christmas” to life.

Celebrate the holiday season with the only audiobook of “The Night Before Christmas”, read by Jeff Bridges. No other narrator brings Santa and these merry scenes to life quite like Mr. Bridges – it’s an instant Christmas classic! Create a new family tradition as you add this audiobook to your holiday activities leading up to December 25th.

xmas factor audioThe Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders

This is my all time favourite Christmas book so it’s lovely to have an audio version too. You can read my review here: http://www.onemorepage.co.uk/?p=1872

Meet two women with two totally different approaches to the festive season. Beth: it’s only September and already she has performance anxiety. Not surprising when she has agreed to lay on the annual Christmas Eve village bash – the piece de resistance of her husband’s former wife – not to mention having to host Christmas for his difficult offspring. New to this frenzied build-up to the festivities, Beth begins to lose sight of what it all means. To her the Christmas lights are looking more like the headlamps of an oncoming train. Carol: glamorous magazine editor, who put her aspirational Christmas issue to bed sometime in July and is so involved in finding a scoop to save her ailing magazine that she fails to notice the impending festive rush. Panicked and wracked with guilt, she is determined to make it a picture perfect time for her little boy and, opting for convenience, books a lovely-sounding cottage in a quaint village. Even the best laid plans have a habit of unravelling – and no plan at all is a recipe for disaster. So when these two Christmases collide, it looks like it’s going to be anything but goodwill towards men…

christmas carolA Christmas Carol: An Audible Original Drama by Charles Dickens

This Christmas Classic narrated by a sparking star cast has just been released by Audible and if you’re a member it’s free to download at the moment!

Jenna Coleman, Miriam Margolyes, Derek Jacobi, Brendan Coyle and Roger Allam are amongst the celebrity voices coming together this Christmas in a brand new multi-cast dramatization of Charles Dickens’ ghostly Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol.

letters from fatherLetters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien Narrated by: Derek Jacobi

Another lovely listen for all ages with beautiful narration and music.

Can you imagine writing to Father Christmas and actually getting a reply?

 Every year, the children of J.R.R. Tolkien would write to Father Christmas, and the letters they received told wonderful stories of his adventures at the North Pole.

These humorous tales are brought to life by Derek Jacobi as Father Christmas, John Moffatt as Polar Bear, and Christian Rodska as Ilbereth the Elf, complete with specially composed music.

Do let me know what your favourite Christmas stories to listen to are – I’d love to add to my collection!

Happy listening!

 

Book review: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

14 Dec

dress shopSince her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop.

Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter.

Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells-like true love-can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

Imagine a book with a magical dress shop that sells creations that can change lives. Imagine a book shop next door run by a man who’s wonderful voice captivates all who hear him. Picture a girl who lives by order, science and facts and throw in a little unrequited love and a mystery that needs to be solved – doesn’t it sound intriguing? These are the premise and themes for The Dress Shop of Dreams and I was completely drawn into the story and captivated by it as I read.

The Dress Shop of Dreams is the second of Menna Van Praags’s Cambridge set novels that I’ve read this year and I loved it. Menna’s books have that wonderful magical realism and fairy tale quality that another favourite author of mine, Sarah Addison Allen has in her stories and The Dress Shop of Dreams is a perfect winter read to curl up and escape with.

Cora Sparks is an orphan; her parents died in a fire when she was young and she’s grown up with her grandmother Etta who owns a dress shop. While Etta and her magical dress shop are colourful, imaginative and creative, Cora lives a frugal, almost clinical existence as a scientist. The contrast between them is immense but as events conspire to throw Cora into disorder and confusion she begins a brilliant journey that will change her life forever.

In the middle somewhere is Walt the boy next door, now man who is a bookseller in the shop next door. Walt has his own share of secrets and he brings a wonderfully romantic thread to the book too. I very much enjoyed all of the different mysteries and strands to the stories in this book.

This is absolutely my favourite of Menna’s books to date (I did say that about the last one I read too though – they just get better and better!) I loved how Menna explored the boundaries and crossovers of science and art and of course magic in this novel – it’s a fascinating and thought provoking read as well as a wonderful and captivating story. Menna’s love of books and stories shines through and this is definitely a booklovers book. Slip a copy of this into your favourite booklovers’ stocking this year – they won’t be disappointed!

5/5

The Dress Shop of Dreams is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Menna and her writing at: http://www.mennavanpraag.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher; Allison & Busby for providing a review copy of this book.

 

Book review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

31 Oct

witches of new yorkThe year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts(keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

It’s no secret that I love books about witches so when I saw The Witches of New York I jumped at the chance to review it. I’d heard very good things about Ami McKay’s earlier novels (bestsellers The Birth House and The Virgin Cure) so between that and the intriguing cover with its wonderful tagline, ‘Those averse to magic need not apply’, I couldn’t wait to get reading!

At over five hundred pages The Witches of New York is a weighty novel but I flew through it and unusually for a book of this length, my attention didn’t wander at all – I was absolutely gripped by Ami’s descriptions of New York in 1880 and the beautifully described story of three very different women finding their place in a rapidly changing society had me captivated.

The UK paperback edition from Orion I is just wonderful and I loved the illustrations, stories and ephemera included in it. Adelaide, Eleanor and Beatrice’s story is accompanied by news articles, advertisements, letters, extracts from Eleanor’s Grimoire and more. The inclusion of snippets from the time made the story feel very real and I also enjoyed the stories within the story that are included – especially the legends and fairytale The Princess Who Wished to Be a Witch.

I’m publishing this review on Halloween because what better day to be talking about witches? But I want to stress that this book is not just for Halloween! McKay cleverly weaves social history, medicine, religion, folklore and mystery to create a story that is as much about women’s rights and the prejudices of society as it is about magic and ghosts. By setting her story against the backdrop of the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park, Ami highlights the fascination of society at the time with magic and the occult. Through her characters she shows the many variations on the theme and highlights the often shocking treatment of women just because of their gender.

From a Gentleman’s society taking a philosophical and scientific approach to communicating with the spirit world to the female inmates of the local asylum via disabled veterans and prostitutes, urchins, suffragists and church preachers; Ami McKay centers her characters in a vivid and complex world. My favourite parts of the book were those set at the wonderfully named teashop that Eleanor and Adelaide run – Tea and Sympathy and I enjoyed reading about the different types of ‘magic’ worked there be it comfort to the heartbroken, courage or hope or just good company.

With history, mysteries, murder, love, romance and magic; this book has something to offer so many readers and I cannot recommend it highly enough as the perfect read to curl up with this autumn.

5/5

The Witches of New York is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Orion.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Ami Mckay and her writing at: http://amimckay.com/

 

Book news: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

3 Oct

You might notice a bit of a theme developing in my posts this month – for me October is all about magic and mystery. I plan to share many magical books with you this month so when I saw this book earlier today I added it straight to my wish list. It covers two of my favourite reading subjects (witches and New York) just in the title so it’s got to be a winner right?!

Ami McKay is the bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure. I absolutely love the sound of this novel and isn’t the cover fab? The Witches of New York is released on October 27th by Orion.

witches of new york

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student andgardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Find out more about Ami McKay and her writing at: http://amimckay.com/